History and Vision
When DF/HCC was established, its leaders recognized the need to increase innovative research in cancer disparities. At the time, each member institution had its own strategy for assessing patients’ racial/ethnic identity and addressing disparities, and each maintained independent relationships with the communities in which they served. A long-term, integrated effort was needed.
DF/HCC created the Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities (IECD), committing substantial faculty time and financial resources on an ongoing basis to the complexities of cancer disparities. As a centralized initiative, the IECD is transforming how member institutions work together, including how they address cancer disparities in underserved communities. The IECD overcomes barriers, improves understanding, and facilitates patient access to clinical trials. By bringing intellectual and organizational resources to bear on these issues, the IECD is emerging as a pivotal resource at DF/HCC.
Karen Burns White, Deputy Associate Director for the Initiative has co-led the Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities at DF/HCC since 2001. As Deputy Associate Director, Ms. Burns White coordinates the planning and implementation of the Cancer Center's efforts to increase minority participation at all levels of Center activities.
A particular focus for the Center is on reducing the unequal burden of cancer. Ms. Burns White leads the implementation of an integrated structure that involves a multi-prong approach including community engagement, cultural competency, recruitment and retention of minority faculty, and training. Ms. Burns White secured the first training grant supplement to the existing P30 Cancer Center grant that established a pipeline program known as the Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE), to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities in cutting edge cancer research. This successful high-profile program provides research opportunities for pre-baccalaureate, undergraduate, pre- and post-doctoral, and faculty levels. In addition, Ms. Burns White has continued to develop collaborations in an effort to attract, develop, and retain students interested in biomedical careers. This is most notable with the ongoing partnerships that focus on research training with UMass Boston and Northeastern University.
Recently, Ms. Burns White was also involved in planning and organizing an effort that helped to raise awareness and bring forth testimony from cancer survivors within the faith-based community. The exhibit, known as the Faces of Faith, was created by the Faith-Based Cancer Disparities Network, an eight-year collaboration of nine churches in the cancer center’s catchment area. The primary purpose of the Network is to develop and implement programming that will eliminate cancer disparities within communities of color and beyond. Under Ms. Burns White's leadership, she and her colleagues have been successful in seeking opportunities to further strengthen and sustain the cancer center’s community and training portfolios.
Ms. Burns White also has a long history of involvement with civic and community organizations. She has served on a variety of boards of directors, including the Susan G. Komen for the CURE–Massachusetts Affiliate, where she also led their grant making program. She currently serves as a member of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Cancer Advisory Committee, whose primary responsibility is to identify priorities and develop strategies for program development and implementation for the state cancer control plan.
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